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Kishanganj: Bihar’s most backward district in quest for AMU centre
Friday, July 02, 2010 08:42:07 PM, Md. Mudassir Alam for ummid.com
AMU VC visits Kishanganj, Urged to start AMU centre at any cost: Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) team led by Vice Chancellor Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis received a mass welcome at Bagdogra airport as thousands of people came to receive the ..... Read Full
“Agar firdaus bar ru-e zamin ast, Hami ast o-hami ast o-hami ast” (If there is paradise on Earth it is this, it is this, it is this), the couplets was used by the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir to describe the beauty of Kashmir. The immortal words of Jehangir can also be used in today’s context for the Indian most backward but charming district of Kishanganj. Stuck in north-eastern corner of Bihar, Kishanganj is bestowed with unparalleled natural beauty and even fondly referred to as the ‘Heaven of Bihar’. The geographical location of Kishanganj provides its special recognition on Indian map as it serves as the gateway to the seven-sister states in north east India. Carved out of the erstwhile Purnia district in 1991, Kishanganj is a Muslim dominated district that counts around 70 percent of the total population.
Enough number of good schools for children in Kishenganj is still a dream.
(Photo: Md Mudassir Alam)
Kishanganj has been represented by the educational luminaries and journalists like Syed Shahbuddin (1985-89 & 1991 – 96) and M.J. Akbar (1989 – 91). Despite such surprising past political association, Kishanganj is still battling with dismal economic and educational status. The district has only 32 percent of literacy against India’s literacy rate of 64.84 percent and Bihar’s 47.53 percent. The literacy rate dips further among Muslims as their literacy rate is 24 percent. Quite shockingly, Kishanganj has the least female literacy in all over India that counts a meagre 2 percent. Although the state government and the Centre runs many educational projects in the district, but it would take a long time to scale the literacy rate up to the national level in Kishanganj.
Based on the recommendations of Sachar Committee and Fatmi Committee, the Muslims of Kishanganj was found among the least literates in India. A couple of years back the Central Government has guided the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to open the extension centres in Muslim dominated areas across the country. Kishanganj was deserving the AMU extension centre most, but due to some lack of information the nearby district of Katihar was declared as the proposed centre, where the percentage of Muslim is 42 percent. However, later on Kishanganj was declared the site of AMU off-campus centre by the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar in February 2009.
The declaration of Bihar CM was like a precious gift for the people of Kishanganj, and locals celebrated the historic moment in their own way by distributing sweets, taking out processions across the district and other ways. Kishanganj DM Feraque Ahmad found out the required land in a short span of time with the help of local B.D.O and C.O. A proposal with the detail map of 246 acres land for AMU off-campus centre was sent by Feraque Ahmad to Principal Secretary of Bihar Government on August 17, 2009. About a month later on September 26, 2009, Nitish Kumar announced his government will give 100 acres of land to AMU free of cost. The announcement of Nitish was slammed by saffron parties and even NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar accused the Bihar Chief Minister for misleading the people in the name of AMU off-campus centre. Tariq Anwar also criticised Nitish Kumar for relocating the proposed centre from Katihar to Kishanganj due to political intention.
At the meantime, AMU VC Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis requested for 250 acres land from Nitish Kumar as it was necessary to run a big institution. A delegation led by AMU VC met up with Nitish Kumar in Bihar on February 4, 2010 and explained the plan of the extension centre in Kishanganj.
Bihar CM was highly excited over the AMU proposal and announced to provide 250 acres land to AMU on lease for a period of 30 years. The decision of Nitish Kumar got approval in Bihar Assembly on February 17, 2010 and it seemed that the road ahead for setting up AMU off-campus in Kishanganj is quite smooth. In response to Nitish Kumar’s statement ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarathi Parishad) the student wing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led a state wide protest against the proposed AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj. Bihar Bandh was called by ABVP on April 1, 2010, but it could not compel Nitish Kumar to take back his decision. On May 22, 2010, AMU VC Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis visited Kishanganj with his team to inspect the land offered by the Bihar Government. The 246 acres of land was offered in three pieces by the Bihar Government that was rejected by AMU VC because of safety reasons. Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis in his statement said that the AMU council want the land in one contiguous piece instead of the 3 pieces to run the proposed campus smoothly. A small population exists on the offered land that is also a big hurdle before the proposed AMU off-campus centre, said AMU VC.
Assembly elections in Bihar are scheduled in October, 2010, and Modal Code of Conduct would be imposed by August. If the land transfer issue is not settled in the month of July itself, then the plan of setting AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj might be a history. The dilemma of land transfer issue has become a big anxiety for the people of Kishanganj and rest of Bihar. In fact, the locals feel that their dream about seeing the AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj is dwindling due to the lazy approach of Nitish led NDA government. Bihar CM Nisith Kumar is visiting Kishanganj on July 4, 2010 as per his curriculum of ‘Vishwas Yatra’. Now all eyes are fixed on Ruidhasa Maidan in Kishanganj, where Nitish Kumar will address the public on July 4. If the Bihar Chief Minister makes any announcement regarding the land transfer issue to AMU, the common people would feel themselves on ‘Cloud 9’, and would get a reason to celebrate. Unless once again the economically and educationally backward district, would go to the backfoot because of negligent attitude of Bihar Government. Bottomline is that Nitish Kumar who has got fast recognition to bring Bihar on path of progress, should not miss the golden opportunity to establish a world-class institution. Nitish Kumar who himself has driven the campaign to get special status for the state of Bihar from the Centre, must not take the AMU off-campus centre issue otherwise because it is concerned with people of Bihar instead any particular caste or religion. Establishment of AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj would not only improve the educational status but it would also generate huge employment opportunities for the people of Bihar.
Md. Mudassir Alam is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi.
He hails from Kishenganj
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